A longtime motor sport journalist who’s now a broadcaster for IMSA Radio, Shaw founded the Team USA Scholarship in 1990 to give young Americans a taste of international competition. Alumni include Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta, Buddy Rice, Joey Hand, AJ Allmendinger and Dane Cameron as well as more recent graduates such as Oliver Askew, Kyle Kirkwood and Dakota Dickenson.
Over the years, Team USA drivers have competed in International Formula 3, Formula Palmer Audi, even New Zealand International Formula Ford. Since 2008, the venues of choice have been the season-ending Formula Ford races at Brands Hatch and Silverstone. Coincidentally, that inaugural year featured the most successful results for scholarship drivers, with IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden winning the former and IndyCar regular Conor Daly taking the latter. In subsequent years, Connor De Phillippi and Tristan Nunez’s victories in the Walter Hayes Trophy helped launch their careers in IMSA.
At first glance, Esterson – mild-mannered, with Clark Kent glasses – seems like an unlikely candidate to surpass his illustrious predecessors. Although he grew up in a racing milieu because his father, Robin, was a motor sport engineer, a move to Manhattan – where most residents don’t even own cars – meant that the traditional entrees to the sport were closed off to him.
Esterson started sim racing when he was 10, using his older brother’s Logitech steering wheel. This led to iRacing, where he eventually reached the pro level in GT endurance races lasting anywhere from three to 24 hours. Then came indoor karting, outdoor karting and finally, at the end of 2019, a test in a 1600cc Formula Ford.
He began 2020 in the States and finished it in England. This year, he committed to a full season in the UK, sharing a flat in Brackley with two other young Americans and joining the well-established Low Dempsey Team. He spent nearly 70 days in the cockpit and reached the podium in 13 of 20 National Formula Ford races. Although he was in the title hunt from start to finish, he came up short in the final race and had to settle for third place in the championship.